Quality Assurance (QA)
Quality assurance is concerned with assuring quality to the consumer by a management process, which attempts to prevent poor quality happening, rather than detecting when goods or services fail to meet quality standards. No one person or department is in control of the quality process; the whole business and all of its employees focus on delivering quality at all levels to both internal and external customers. It is associated with a series of activities, which will consider in the following sections, such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Continuous Improvement.
The process of Quality Assurance (QA) requires the engagement of the whole workforce with the issue of quality and therefore, promotes employee participation and democratic, consultative leadership. Employees are expected to 'self-check' by comparing their output against quality standards. The objective is to get activities right the first time and aims for zero defects. Employees are encouraged to request additional training where required and to make suggestions for improvements on an ongoing basis through suggestions schemes of the development of quality circles; the focus is on product design and development. Departments cooperate with other departments to ensure that quality improvements are identified, examining inputs to the process as well as outputs. A logical extension of the process of QA is to create quality partnerships with suppliers of components and raw materials.
Quality Assurance has the following advantages over traditional quality control:
- Everyone is responsible for quality, promoting consultation, teamwork and job enrichment - the higher levels of motivation identified by Maslow and Herzberg. This process promotes the sense of belonging to a group.
- Quality is seen as an organisational issue rather than focusing on individuals and groups, reducing the 'blame culture' associated with traditional quality control.
- The responsibility for quality associated with each individual is potentially self-motivating.
- It reduces waste and cuts the costs associated with expensive inspections and the rejection of finished goods, or the correction of identified faults.
- It makes it easier for the organisation to meet quality standards and so be awarded with various quality awards and 'kitemarks', which can be used in the marketing process.